Apple's New Lockdown Mode for iPhone Fights Hacking

Ian Sherr Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. At CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
4 min read
Apple logo designed to look like a padlock

Apple says it's taking privacy and security even more seriously.

Apple/Screenshot by James Martin/CNET

What's happening

Apple is developing a new "Lockdown Mode" for its iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. It's designed to fight industrial-strength hacking like the NSO Group's Pegasus.

Why it matters

Though these attacks happen to a small group of people, the threat is growing. Pegasus was used by to spy on human rights activists, lawyers, politicians and journalists around the world. Apple says it's identified similar attacks on people in 150 countries over the past eight months.

What's next

Apple will release Lockdown Mode for free later this year and says it's planning regular updates and improvements. The company has also expanded its bug bounties and established a grant to encourage further research toward this issue.

Apple for years has marketed its iPhones, iPads and Mac computers as the most secure and privacy-focused devices on the market. Last week, it bolstered that effort with a new feature coming this fall called Lockdown Mode, designed to fight targeted hacking attempts such as the Pegasus malware, which some governments reportedly used on human rights workers, lawyers, politicians and journalists around the world. Apple also announced a $10 million grant and up to $2 million bug bounty to encourage further research into this growing threat.

The tech giant said that Lockdown Mode is designed to activate "extreme" protections to its phones, such as blocking attachments and link previews in messages, potentially hackable web browsing technologies, and incoming FaceTime calls from unknown numbers. Apple devices will also not accept accessory connections unless the device is unlocked, and people can't install new remote management software on the devices while they're in Lockdown Mode as well. The new feature is already available in test software being used by developers this summer and will be released for free publicly in the fall as part of iOS 16, iPadOS 16 and MacOS Ventura. Here's how to use Apple's Lockdown mode on an iPhone.